Japanese Government’s Liable For Negligence Over Fukushma

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Above Photo: Relatives visit a family grave in Iwate prefecture on the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima meltdown this month. Photograph: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty

Court rules government should have used regulatory powers to force nuclear plant’s operator to take preventive measures

A court in Japan has ruled that negligence by the state contributed to the triple meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011 and awarded significant damages to evacuees.

Although courts have awarded damages arising from the disaster in other cases, Friday’s ruling is the first time the government has been held liable.

The Maebashi district court near Tokyo awarded ¥38.55m (£270,000) to 137 people who were forced to evacuate their homes in the days after three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors suffered a catastrophic meltdown, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Despite official claims that the size and destructive power of the quake and tsunami were impossible to foresee, the court said the nuclear meltdown could have been prevented.

The ruling said the government should have used its regulatory powers to force the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), who were also held liable, to take adequate preventive measures.

The plaintiffs – comprising forced and “voluntary” evacuees – claimed the government and Tepco could have predicted a tsunami more than 10 metres in height would one day hit the plant.

They based their claim on a 2002 report in which government experts estimated there was a one in five chance of a magnitude-8 earthquake occurring and triggering a powerful tsunami within the next 30 years.

At the time of the disaster, Japan’s nuclear regulator was severely criticised for its collusive ties with the nuclear industry, resulting in the formation of a new watchdog that has imposed stricter criteria for the restart of nuclear reactors that were shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Tepco, which faces a ¥21.5tn bill for decommissioning the plant and compensating evacuees, said it would respond after studying the ruling.

The 137 plaintiffs, who are now living in several regions outside of Fukushima, were seeking a total of ¥1.5bn as compensation for emotional distress.

Workers stand outside reactor 4 as they continue the radiation decontamination process at the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

They said the meltdown and resulting evacuation had ruined their livelihoods and caused disruption to their families’ lives, adding that state compensation they had already received was insufficient.

Friday’s ruling is the first of 30 lawsuits to be brought by Fukushima evacuees. Six years after the disaster, tens of thousands of people are still living in nuclear limbo, and many say they will never be able to return home. A small number have moved back to communities where the government has lifted evacuation orders.

The ruling echoed the conclusion reached by an independent parliamentary investigation, which described the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown as a “man-made” disaster caused by poor regulation and collusion between the government, Tepco and the industry’s then watchdog, the nuclear and industrial safety agency.

The report, published in 2012, accused Tepco and the agency of failing to take adequate safety measures, despite evidence that the north-east coast of Japan was susceptible to powerful earthquakes and tsunamis.

“The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco, and the lack of governance by said parties,” the report said.

“They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly ‘man-made’.”

  • In the final analysis, we all pay for the externalities that profit motivated corporations and their government supporters unleash. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is just one of many such facilities around the world, disasters waiting to happen as the rise of coastal waters continues to accelerate. The blind hand of the monetary free market system is the great enemy of our hopes for a sustainable future. The great difficulty in fighting this enemy is the distributed nature of its motivational impacts. The daily decisions of everyone, from the the CEOs of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful corporations to the minimum wage workers around the planet, we are all constantly influenced by the forces of the global free market. We are essentially blind to, deliberately dismissive of or willfully obscuring the endless streams of externalities, small and large, generated by a society based around competitive markets, money, ownership, personal profit and constant consumption. If we allow the constant externalization of consequence to go unaddressed for much longer, the whole of humanity may soon find itself without a livable planet to call home. Understanding the deep systemic motivators driving the nearly universally unsustainable human behaviors is critical to recognizing solutions and developing strategies for moving the cultural Zeitgeist towards motivators of sustainable behaviors. Does money motivate your personal actions in any way? Then you know where to begin your efforts at understand those motivators. Why do you make decisions that you know are unsustainable under present conditions, like purchasing a gallon of gas? Do I want to buy a gallon of gasoline? No, but sometimes I still do. Why am I not given the option of purchasing a kilowatt-hour of sustainably produced sunshine instead? What changes would be necessary to sustainably meet the needs of everyone? Can we continue the competitive pursuit of money motivated profit driven decision making if we wish to live in a truly sustainable society? Is there any path that includes money, private property, competition and profit motivation that leads to a sustainable future? Ask yourself. The toughest decision about how to achieve a sustainable future begins with the decision to understand what motivates your own personal decisions today.

  • Jon

    But regardless of individual decisions by highly conscious people, the system grinds on. the solution is to euthanize the empire and create post empire societies.